Hikari Senju

Harvard College

Quickhelp is an iOS app that offers on-demand tutoring for college students. The company matches undergrads seeking academic help with highly-capable Ph.D. students looking to earn money as tutors.

How did you get started at the i-lab?

In the summer of 2014, I did an internship in San Francisco where on-demand apps were all the rage. Upon coming back to Harvard, I talked with, Mazen Elfakhani, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology and my eventual co-founder at Quickhelp. We felt that Boston was a great place to launch an on-demand, in-person academic help app because of the high concentration of underpaid graduate students and motivated undergrads in the area.

Within hours of the launch, a Harvard student posted a request seeking help for a computer science final project. We ended up hitting 1,000 users in our first month. That’s when we realized that we were on to something.

I had been in the VIP program with a previous company and had met a ton of great people at the i-lab during that first startup experience. Once Quickhelp got traction, it was a no brainer to build the company here.

What’s the #1 resource you use most at the Harvard Innovation Lab? Why is it so useful?

The i-lab has been integral to our survival and growth.

First off, the staff is super nice and helpful.

Second, we’ve made a ton of connections by going to the events and meeting the mentors. Going forward, as we plan to raise a round of funding, the connections we’ve made here will be important. The connections wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the i-lab. I really appreciate the opportunities that being here has given us.

As we focus more on the local startup network (to try and build more users) as well as the community that funds startups, the i-lab and its programs are integral in helping us meet more people.

What’s next for you and your venture?

We are currently focusing on the Boston and New York markets. We have a growing number of users seeking and getting help in both locations. Once we believe that we are sufficiently providing for the needs of students in these areas, we will expand to newer cities that have a high density of students.

If you had to give another student one piece of advice to get the most out of the i-lab, what would it be?

Take advantage of all that you can.

Before coming here, I thought that the i-lab was so far away from the college…like it is on the ‘other side of the river.’ In reality, it is so close to everything. But you don’t really get the benefit of being here unless you come to this space. The other teams that are here can be really supportive and give you great advice. The amazing staff here will definitely increase the chance that your project survives and thrives.

You can also find potential co-workers and partners. The i-lab is this great place where you can meet people who have similar interests to yours and have gone through the same experiences. Our head of marketing, Brandon Kregal, was always working here late into the night on his own startup, and because we tended to be here at the same time so much, we connected and he decided to help us out.

Most importantly, once you’re here, get to work!

If you can code, build a prototype. If you can’t, build mockups and get feedback from other students at the i-lab. Get people that you respect and admire to join you. Make sure you are working with people who have complementary skills and that you enjoy working with.

Anything we missed? Feel free to wax poetic here…

We believe that in-person tutoring can be a highly beneficial complement to the traditional higher education academic experience. However, it isn’t financially feasible for everyone to be taught 1-on-1. Adding tutoring to the classroom learning experience can pay huge dividends.

The only (or main) reason why everyone hasn’t added individual tutoring to their education is because of its cost — some tutors charge over $300 per hour. But with Quickhelp making the in-person tutoring market more liquid and driving down prices, high-quality tutoring will eventually be accessible to anyone, hopefully leveling the playing field in an increasingly competitive academic world.